In my work helping people of all backgrounds, the months from November to January are intensified times of great celebration, but also a time filled with a lot of stress and inward conflict. Family seems to be the common arena that creates inward tension. The reason being is these focused gatherings seem to inflate the issues people already struggle with.
Now before you hide in your apartment until January 2, take a moment to hear me out. I’ll save you a therapy session with some helpful tips in maneuvering through the holiday gatherings with more sanity and security.
1. Confront your own ingratitude and self-centeredness.
Lets face it, we are a pretty selfish culture to begin with. Holidays that promote overeating and lists of what we can get don’t help the self-centered ways that permeate our lives. So kick off a new chapter by confronting your selfish mindsets that only look out for me, me and me.
Start by developing daily meditations of gratitude. Focus on the blessings in your life, not on what you don’t have. Too often the strife and endless debate that goes on in our families is a result a self-expectation that is not being met. (And don’t say “Mhmm. I know someone like this.” Let this hit your own heart first.)
When we lower our pride, humble ourselves and remain grateful, we have already disarmed about half of satan’s tactics to kick up wars. Shift your mindset. Make these holidays a time focused on what you can give out in love and generosity more than what you can get from people. Get out there and love on people in ways that can be meaningful to them.
2. Cultivate healthy expectations
Holidays play this crazy trick on us. We get lured by nostalgia to have a mind-blowing experience through reliving a childhood memory or finding an “It’s a Wonderful Life” experience we never had. With it often comes insane expectations built up in us that do not manifest, so we’re left disappointed and a crash comes.
Why are you busting my hope Mark? I am not. I am simply helping you to remember, you might be changing and growing, but that does not mean your family is. You may have a heart for peace, but not everyone else does. You cannot control what others are bringing to the table.
This factor may feed into how long you can stay at a gathering or how much you tolerate the drunk uncle who kicks up arguments. Regardless of the junk you may encounter, having a healthy perspective up front that prepares you more effectively.
3. Take responsibility for where you have been a jerk.
Be honest, you haven’t always been the sweetest and kindest person on the block. Nothing is everyone else’s fault. The more you can recognize your own mistakes and errors, the more apt you will be to remain humble and apologize for where you need to change. When you cannot admit your own flaws, this only adds to the hostility. No one can defeat a humble heart that is willing to admit their own shortcomings.
4. Lose the Superman cape
You are not there to save, change or rescue anyone. You are there to love and enjoy whatever healthy fellowship is available. Lose the burden to have to fix everyone’s problems and be right on arguments. Release love and simply be available for any divine opportunities God may open up. But don’t force it. For many reading this, you need to release the burden of having to be THE healing vessel for your family. Usually it takes someone outside the family to be the voice that influences them anyway. Most people hate hearing corrective instruction from a family member anyway, so don’t sweat it.
5. Forgive, forgive, forgive
The more you learn to forgive, the more you will learn to love and accept people, even in their brokeness. Deep rooted unforgiveness is probably the most common root of family difficulties. We often forget that unresolved bitterness is the reason we live in irritation around family members. Anger is also another sign that bitterness is lurking underneath. Jesus told Peter that we should forgive 70 times 7, which would equal 490 times. He was not putting a numerical limit on forgiveness, but helping us to realize, we are going to have to forgive a lot. The moment you stop forgiving, you block the blessing of God from operating in your own life. No matter what other people do to you, forgiveness releases you to walk free without the poison of their toxicity.
Which point is the most helpful for you in your journey? Leave your comments below.